The Year of GIS and the Cloud: Esri Meet-Up in Review

This past Thursday (January 31st), GovLoop and Esri hosted an event at the District Architecture Center in DC to introduce Esri’s efforts to harness the power of the cloud.

For those of you unfamiliar with Esri, the company is a GIS (Geographic Information System) software company that takes geographical data and analyzes it to create concrete evidence to support decisions that may ultimately lead to a better, more sustainable world.

The night began with mingling and hors d’oeuvres (supplied by Geppetto Catering). By 5:30 the open and airy space of the District Architecture Center was full of the chatter of a colorful palette of professionals. When the content of the event started, there was standing room only as some guests continued to nibble at their food and other prepped to take notes while GovLoop and Esri staff got ready to begin.

GovLoop’s Pat Fiorenza greeted the crowded room in a casual but professional manner. He introduced the first speaker, Andrew Turner, Esri’s Chief Technology Officer. Turner who opened the night’s presentation with a description of Esri’s accomplishments and hopes for their new open source platform, ArcGIS. He cleverly described it as being like a kid handed a Lego kit; a person may be given a ship or a space craft (a functioning GIS platform), but it supplies pieces that can be taken apart and put back in a different way to “function” in a more personalized way (open-source aspect).

The next speaker was Bonnie Stayer, a Solutions Engineer at Esri. She spoke about ArcGIS’s release in December 2012 and what makes it a new and exciting opportunity in the geographic information world. ArcGIS is a full-featured platform that can be used by humans or machines to learn from example by sharing code. It does not mandate that people share their content, but it hopes that code writers will be eager to share what they have learned and their tricks of the trade to better serve the geographical information community.

The final speaker, Evan Caldwell, another Solutions Engineer at Esri, presented the third part of the night’s content. He explained some of the intricacies of social coding as well as presented, a social coding website that aides software coding collaboration in a variety of professional settings. GitHub is home to millions of public repositories that enable coders to share lines of code as well as to report issues and to seek collaborative answers. Think of it a the organized forum of many code writer’s dreams.

After the content, guests asked questions and continued to mingle. Overall the night was a success. It brought together various professionals interested in GIS and introduced the idea of open-source platforms in a cutting-edge knowledge network. The most exciting part is that this is just a taste of the inspiring things to come from Esri.

When Esri was founded in 1969, it realized even then that geographic information system (GIS) technology could make a difference in society. GIS helps people to solve problems at local, regional, national, and global scales. Access maps and apps at Check out the Communications & Citizen Engagement Sub-Community of which they are a council member.

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